With the pressure of western sanctions finally bearing down on Russia’s aviation operations Aeroflot subsidiary Rossiya is charting a different sort of course to keep people and goods moving. The carrier will take advantage of its home-grown fleet, the Sukhoi SuperJet, and the geographic positioning of Sochi to continue international operations into April.
Recently updated flight schedules for April show a massive boost of SSJ flying at Sochi, allowing Rossiya to keep its connectivity to several foreign countries while reducing the risk of aircraft seizure or operational challenges.
Earlier in March the SSJs began flying to Istanbul, mostly for Red Wings. Under the new plan, Rossiya’s SuperJet fleet will visit Istanbul and more than a dozen other cities, helping to keep connectivity in place.
Schedule data from Cirium shows more than 400 SSJ departures scheduled from Sochi in April 2022, up from just 30 in February. A dozen international destinations are now on the map; only Crimea saw SSJ service from Sochi prior to the invasion.
The SSJs are Russian-built, which helps with some of the maintenance and support needs. They contain many components from the West and rely on (now revoked) support from Lufthansa Technic for spare parts. With that support lost the SuperJet will also eventually face operational challenges. Indeed, Podeba announced it will ground nearly a third of its SSJ fleet, likely to use for spare parts while keeping the rest of the planes operational. Aeroflot may eventually be forced into a similar choice.
In theory default on the leases for Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer aircraft would remove those from service. Or perhaps the suspension of the aircraft registrations by Bermuda and elsewhere. Russia, however, appears keen to simply steal those planes and reregister them domestically. But lack of access to spare parts and maintenance documentation is harder to overcome. That, too has been cut off by the west.
Even more significantly, however, is that no one else wants the SSJs. A western jet flying out of Russia is a prime target for seizure, either by a lessor because of the stolen planes or by another authority owed money by the airlines. With zero market for the SSJ outside Russia, however, no one would bother to seize one. It just increases the costs to the company making that move, rather than helping recover some cash.
Overall, Rossiya’s operations will grow in April 2022 compared to February. The SSJs will operate 74% more flights in the month ahead. he carrier’s 737-800 fleet will also see a major activity boost by percentage, but will average just 4 flights per day total, so not a major factor in Russian air capacity.
Aeroflot’s SSJ fleet shifts to serve Yerevan and Baku, allowing similarly sanction-safe access to a couple international markets. Total SSJ operations will drop more than 35% for the carrier.
Yakutia, Yamal, and IrAero all operate significant SSJ fleets. All three are cutting operations of the type by 25-35% in April compared to February 2022.
Across the top dozen Russian airlines overall capacity will drop 16% in April against an 8% reduction in flights, mostly reflecting the lack of long-haul international routes. Rossiya and Pobeda, both part of the Aeroflot Group, show the largest growth numbers for the country in the same time.
A favor to ask while you're here...
Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or generally just think this is the type of story you'd like to see more of? Consider supporting the site through a donation (any amount helps). It helps keep me independent and avoiding the credit card schlock.